Verduno is a town in the Barolo appellation, and as one might expect, they make Barolo. Very fine Barolo that I find to revolve more around elegance and finesse, as opposed to the power one finds in Serralunga.
But they also have something else, Pelaverga, which is one of the more interesting lesser Piemontese varietals -- a fairly light, sassy, intensely aromatic red with rich spicy aromas that are absolutely unmistakable and invite no quarter. It's a wine that people either like or abhor, and the feelings it engenders are so strong that they even extend to winemakers, who are usually more accommodating of varietal quirks -- especially those of their varietals -- than most: Nick Belfrage says one of the Verduno winemakers he talked to when researching "Barolo Valpolicella" to confessed to not caring for Pelaverga, though he did of course make it.
After the retrospective on the first day of the 2011 Nebbiolo Prima, the afternoons featured various things and one day Commendator Burlotto, Castello di Verduno, and Fratelli Alessandria invited us to Verduno to taste Pelaverga and Barolo on the town common. A beautiful afternoon on the grass with a nice view over the vineyards, and we started with Pelaverga:
Pale ruby with pink rim; the bouquet is rich and powerful, with sandalwood spice mingled with red berry fruit, dark flower floral accents, and some dusky underbrush and graphite shavings. Rich, and very nice. On the palate it's full and rich, with bright sandalwood laced red berry fruit supported by sweetish accents and smooth soft tannins, and flows into a long rich spicy berry fruit finish. Very ripe fruit, and extremely pleasant to drink, with complexity to ponder and spice to enjoy. Quite versatile, and will work well with things that are difficult to pair -- I once had a Pelaverga with a bell pepper flan, and it was perfect. 90-92
Fairly rich ruby with paler rim, and a more charged nose than the Commendator Burlotto's with more spicy sandalwood power but less finesse, and fewer floral accents. Pleasant, however. On the palate it's full and rich, with berry fruit that powerful, but a touch less intense than Commendator Burlotto's and a touch of brighter greenish acidity, while the tannins have a more savory cast. 2 stars
This is from Pelaverga Piccolo grapes, and is pale ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is fresh and elegant, with sandalwood supported by some sour berry fruit and deft acidity; with respect to the 2010 it is less floral and this is a combination of greater age and vintage variation -- it does have some floral notes as it opens. On the palate it's full and smooth, with sweet berry fruit supported by some sandalwood spice and slight savory accents, and flows into a fairly long savory finish. The overall impression is languid and graceful, and it will be quite versatile too. 88-90
Almandine with brownish reflections and almandine rim paling to orange. the bouquet is rich, with sour berry fruit supported by balsamic notes and sea salt with dried flowers and, as it opens, savory accents, leaf tobacco, and leathery minerality. A lot going on. On the palate it's full and rich, with elegant savory berry fruit laced with sea salt and supported by powerful peppery spice and tannins that are ample and savory, flowing into a clean warm savory finish. Beautiful deapth and elegance, and a lot to say. 90-92
From a Magnum This wine is fermented traditionally, stems and all, and the grapes are pressed by foot to keep from damaging the stems; the fermentation takes place in an open top conical tank, with submerged cap, and maceration is 70 days. In other words, extreme. Almandine with brownish black reflections and pale almandine rim. The bouquet is elegant, with rich leather and some rosa canina mingled with leaf tobacco and dried flowers, with pleasing spice as well, and as it opens some truffles also emerge. Terrific complexity, and its being from a magnum certainly helps. The stuff of dreams. On the palate it's full and rich, with elegant savory berry fruit supported by mentholated accents and deft slightly mentholated acidity, and by smooth velvety tannins that flow into a long tobacco laced finish with some savory notes. Beautiful, and a great delight to drink. 95-6
Brownish almandine with black reflections and almandine rim paling to leathery orange. The bouquet is powerful and smoky, with intense savory accents and leaf tobacco supported by some leathery acidity; it's much more tertiary in a chaged way than the other two wines, and as it opens sour notes, dried mushrooms, and raw beef also emerge. On the palate it's ample and very smooth with leathery minerality laced with brown sugar with slight oatmeal accents and supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a long sweet savory finish with savory balsamic accents. Quite impressive, more on the palate than the nose, which is more charged and -- picking nits here -- a touch coarser. It's very much alive in a leathery, tobaccoey mature key. 90-92
Of the three Baroli, Castello di Verduno comes across at first glance as brighter and younger, primarily because of its acidity, while its tannins are somewhat less velvety. Of the three, it is the wine I would choose to eat with a thick steak, cooked properly rare. The other two are more for meditation, ideally with friends who aren't too talkative.
And the Verduno Pelaverga? A delightful, versatile, easy to drink wine in a particular style, something to seek out, and if you like the style, enjoy considerably.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.